Mascarpone cheese is an Italian triple-cream cheese made from crème fraîche that has been denatured with tartaric acid. Some brands also add buttermilk. After the denaturation process, the whey is removed without pressing or aging the cheese. Mascarpone can be made by using cream, tartaric or citric acid, or lemon juice.
This cheese has a very high butterfat content, which gives it a soft texture that varies from very soft, like crème fraîche, to stiff, like butter, depending on how it is handled during the cheese making process.
Mascarpone cheese is milky-white in color and has a creamy texture that is easily spread. When fresh, it has a sweet, milky aroma. It is commonly used in various dishes from the Lombardy region of Italy, where it is a specialty. It is a main ingredient in tiramisu and is sometimes used instead of butter or Parmesan cheese to thicken and enrich risotto.
If you want to make mascarpone cheese at home, you will need a quart of minimally processed cream and a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. You will also need a cheesecloth, a strainer, a double boiler, and a reliable thermometer. If you do not have a double boiler, you can create one by positioning a metal or heat-proof glass bowl over a saucepan filled with water.